Fall 2016 Explore Engineering Weekend to take place at Sweet Briar at the end of the month

October 18, 2016 | Janika Carey
Students work in the engineering wood shop during the Summer 2016 Explore Engineering Design Course.

Students work in the engineering wood shop during the Summer 2016 Explore Engineering Design Course.

The Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program at Sweet Briar College is still taking applications for its Fall 2016 Explore Engineering Weekend for high school girls. The event will happen Friday, Oct. 28, through Saturday, Oct. 29.

Now in its eighth year, Explore Engineering is a series of summer, fall and spring events built around hands-on, team-based design projects that emphasize creativity. No previous engineering experience is needed to attend the events, which are open to high school sophomores, juniors or seniors.

Applicants can register online, but space is limited. The $35 fee includes meals, snacks, lodging, supplies and a T-shirt. For more information, visit the Explore Engineering website or contact Rebecca Girten at (434) 381-6447 or girten09@sbc.edu.

During the course, participants will work in teams with Sweet Briar professors and students on a project that is challenging, but ideal for those new to engineering. Among other things, they will learn the design process from brainstorming to testing and revising prototypes; find out from professors and students what it’s like to work as an engineer, be an engineering student, or what one can do with an engineering degree from Sweet Briar; and learn to turn their designs into reality.

This year’s main project is an electromechanical drawing machine. Kaelyn Leake, a 2009 graduate of Sweet Briar’s engineering program who came back as a visiting assistant professor last year, is co-teaching the weekend course.

Prof. Kaelyn Leake (left) helps students with their project during the Summer 2016 Explore Engineering Design Course.

Prof. Kaelyn Leake (left) helps students with their project during the Summer 2016 Explore Engineering Design Course.

The camps are a great way to introduce girls to the field of engineering and its many applications, she says.

“Engineering is currently a male-dominated field, and girls figure this out at a surprisingly young age,” says Leake, who received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2015.

“This means that they choose not to do camps or take classes because they know they will be one of only a few girls there. That’s intimidating.”

Sweet Briar’s engineering events — a weeklong course in the summer and weekends in the fall and spring — offer high school girls a taste of what it’s like to learn in a single-sex environment, and to be taken seriously as aspiring engineers.

To date, more than 400 high school-age women have participated in one or more Explore Engineering events, and more than 10 percent of them later enrolled at Sweet Briar — one of only two women’s colleges in the country to offer an ABET-accredited degree in engineering.

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